Faithful and polished retelling of the true story of the first unit of African American soldiers during the Civil War, and the white man who led them. It lacks the passion this story deserves, though the cast do their best (other than Matthew Broderick, who’s middling at best in the lead role) and the battle scenes are quite good. At times James Horner’s score is very similar to what he would use to better effect in Braveheart six years later. It’s still quite a good movie; it just isn’t as epic or moving as it could have been.
This movie is entirely stupid and yet so absurdly entertaining! It’s another of those so-bad-it’s-good movies: if you watch it uncritically and just go along for the ride, it’s a whole lot of fun. Patrick Swayze is perfect in the lead role (which isn’t to say he’s any good), Kelly Lynch is quite terrible as his love interest, and the always-cool Sam Elliott steals every scene he’s in. There’s so much that doesn’t make sense (for example: we’re supposed to believe that Swayze’s character is such a great bouncer that he has a reputation that precedes him across the nation… really?; the characters inexplicably rely on hand-to-hand combat even though they – or at least the bad guys – have knives and guns… really??; and Lynch’s character is an intelligent doctor yet for some reason she has a romantic history with the main antagonist, a guy with no redeeming features whatsoever beyond money and power… really???), but somehow that’s part of the charm. Oh, and there’s a Chekhov’s throat-ripping move. Really.
Peter Jackson’s relentlessly silly parody of The Muppets (kind of) is funny but uneven. It’s completely original, quite ambitious, and wholly committed to its unique premise. Some of the songs are also quite fun. The final stretch is glorious, full of great moments and some belly laughs; not quite enough to cover for some less successful stretches earlier on.
Not at all what I expected. The premise, and at times the execution, risk cheese and schmalz, but somehow by the end I found it quite affecting. I’m usually annoyed by movies that shoehorn fantastic or supernatural elements into otherwise realistic settings (case in point: The Green Mile), but in this case I happily went along for the ride. I was glad we weren’t given any real explanation for what we were seeing; somehow that would have shattered the lovely illusion. Costner is unremarkable but inoffensive. Two things that bugged me: (1) in one scene he sees three things signifying that he’s somehow gone back in time to 1972 – a poster for Nixon’s re-election, a movie theatre showing The Godfather, and a numberplate that says 1972 – which was about two things too many, implying audience and character stupidity; (2) the reaction to a child’s seemingly life-threatening fall doesn’t ring true (if it had been my child, I would have been freaking out!).